By and large, they were right.
As the year comes to a close, the verdict is in for Wall Street: This was a period of good fortune. Even so, simplistic narratives often fell short, as traders learned to expect the unexpected. After all, there was inflation, which was transitory until it wasn’t. Some stocks became memes, notching unbelievable gains. Bitcoin skyrocketed, then plunged — then skyrocketed and plunged again.
Here are four figures that shine a light on the most significant trends — and provide clues on where the market could head next.
The big economic surprise of the year was inflation, which rattled policymakers and could set the stage for more turbulence in 2022.
So far, markets have largely shrugged off inflation fears. But it’s good to stay humble, and remember just how wrong many forecasters were. In June, the Federal Reserve predicted that its preferred measure of inflation would run at 3.4% in 2021, already well above its target of roughly 2%. The latest data from November showed inflation at 5.7%.
70: The number of times the S&P 500 hit a record high this year
According to Ryan Detrick of LPL Financial, 2021 produced the second most new stock market highs ever. It was also one of the best years for stocks on record, with the S&P 500 on track to finish up 27.6%.
Even better: There was only one pullback of 5%. This happens three times a year on average.
100 million: The number of GameStop shares traded daily in late January
When the struggling video games retailer’s shares shot up some 2,700% in January, it woke up Wall Street’s suits to the power of armchair investors, who were coordinating on social media networks such Reddit and Discord and using apps like Robinhood to dramatically drive up the stocks of their favorite companies.
And with bigger players now paying attention, the bubble hasn’t popped. GameStop is still up 717% year-to-date, even though its losses are widening.
2.2 trillion: The value of the global cryptocurrency market in dollars
By now, everyone knows cryptocurrencies are an extremely volatile asset class. Yet even by bitcoin standards, this year brought real ups and downs.
The most popular crypto coin rallied above $60,000 for the first time in March before crashing in May, spooking some new investors. But those who held tight were rewarded. Bitcoin rebounded to an all-time high of $68,789.63 in November — though it is, of course, down again in December.
China’s Xi’an lockdown hits top chipmakers
Two of the world’s biggest chipmakers are warning that Covid-19 outbreaks and stringent lockdowns in a major Chinese industrial hub are hampering their operations.
Samsung and Micron said this week that they’ve had to adjust their businesses in the northwestern city of Xi’an, which is experiencing one of China’s worst community outbreaks of the coronavirus pandemic. Authorities have responded by enacting sweeping measures on a scale rarely seen since the lockdown in Wuhan, the pandemic’s initial epicenter.
Why it matters: Any slowdown in output from the city risks worsening the global chip shortage, an ongoing crisis that has limited the supply of everything from iPhones to new cars.
“New or more stringent restrictions impacting our operations in Xi’an may be increasingly difficult to mitigate,” the company said.
Another Richard Branson space venture is going public
A second Richard Branson space company is about to hit the market.
Virgin Orbit is expected to make its debut on the Nasdaq on Thursday after merging with a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC.
Founded by Branson in 2017, the company makes technology to launch satellites. Its first commercial launches took place earlier this year.
“This investment will ensure that Virgin Orbit has the capital required to go and build upon its incredible foundation and continue its rapid transition into a successful commercial space launch company,” Branson said.
Warning sign: Space stocks have been struggling. Virgin Galactic shares surged as high as $62.80 this year, but have sagged following Branson’s much-hyped journey into space over the summer, finishing Wednesday at $13.04.
Initial US jobless claims for last week post at 8:30 a.m. ET.
Coming tomorrow: Before the Bell is taking a break on Friday, but will be back in your inbox on Sunday to kick off 2022.